Mining The Notebook

Writing workshop time in my classroom.  Twenty-three seventh graders look at me, waiting for  inspiration to begin writing or, at the very least, waiting for a push in some direction.  Prompts and invitations have started our class for months, filling their writer’s notebooks with seeds that I tell them will one day grow, if they choose to give one the nourishment it requires.  But first, they have to see what’s hiding in there. They have to go mining.

Mine your notebook, I tell them.  Find the word or phrase or idea that has potential.  Sift through the writing like sand and find the nugget.  Uncover the treasure.  

So today, attempting to model what I want my students to do, I open my notebook. I see my words.  My phrases and ideas. I’m sure there are some nuggets, some treasures, hiding in there, but what I notice most is what is missing:  the words I haven’t written; the words that wait and seem to hover just over the page. What has not gotten onto the pages of my writer’s notebook are the words that need to be pushed out forcefully, like Elizabeth Bishop has shown me.   

What happens to the stories that we never tell?  What if, one day, we reveal our true nature? I worry that there is some balance or symmetry to the universe that will be irrevocably altered.  Or, maybe, we all have our stories that hide, until the words trickle out between the lines of poems and in the backgrounds of photographs. Maybe there are always things lingering in the periphery.  But, perhaps, it is finally time to put those stories and poems out there and see how the universe adjusts.  


8 thoughts on “Mining The Notebook

  1. I feel your thoughts about things that have not been spoken about. It’s time for me to dig deeper and be willing to write about important memories and thoughts.


  2. “What I notice most is what is missing”–yes! I am so glad you have captured this experience, because this happens to me every time I mine my notebook. All the things I didn’t write. The stories I wanted to capture and didn’t. The questions that needed to be asked and explored and weren’t. The things I didn’t have the time or the patience or the courage to write. I like the idea that it’s all lingering somewhere in the peripheries.

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  3. Welcome to Slice of Life – this is what I love about March – the daily writing seems to uncover some of those words that can hide between the lines. I love how you expressed this. I also like this line “we all have our stories that hide, until the words trickle out between the lines of poems and in the backgrounds of photographs.” The use of poem and photographs to help find our stories is wonderful. Thanks for joining us!

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  4. This is such a beautiful piece. I stopped short with this line: What happens to the stories we never tell? I always tell myself they will be written ‘someday’, but never stopped to think what happens to them when they are not told. Do they change? Do they become fragmented? Are they forgotten? You’ve given me renewed enthusiasm to tell them.

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  5. This is such a thought provoking piece. It makes me think of the words that hover, unwritten, in my own writer’s notebook. I love the question, “What happens to the stories that we never tell?” It’s good inspiration to stop self-censoring my own writing. I also love your opening, with the detail of twenty three seventh graders looking at you–I can so picture that!

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  6. Uncover the treasure – Such a powerful line! Each student (and adult) has their own treasure of words and stories. Because I love stories, I wish that every student was comfortable telling a story (their story). As a teacher, my goal is to make my classroom comfortable for the students to share their words, their thoughts, and their insights. Confidence can be gained (by the young writer) when a teacher finds treasure in his/her’s words. THANK YOU for sharing! THANK YOU for inspiring!

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  7. Your line, “What happens to the stories we never tell?” strummed my heart. The older I get, the more worried I am of the stories I can’t remember. Dementia runs in my family, and writing gives me hope that my stories will help me remember.


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